De­mo­li­tion in Delhi leaves shanty dwellers in the cold

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

City of­fi­cials in New Delhi have de­mol­ished hun­dreds of shanties in the past week, leav­ing up to 1,500 peo­ple home­less for win­ter, in the lat­est of sev­eral such evic­tions this year across the coun­try as of­fi­cials race to up­grade ci­ties. The de­mo­li­tion of the decade-old in­for­mal set­tle­ments hap­pened with no no­tice, ac­tivists said, with res­i­dents un­able to re­trieve their be­long­ings and not of­fered al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion.

A city of­fi­cial said 300-350 shanties were de­mol­ished with hun­dreds placed in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion, but a lo­cal non-gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mated 1,500 were left home­less. “It is a mat­ter of great con­cern when the gov­ern­ment de­stroys homes that peo­ple have built ... and ren­ders them home­less with­out any re­course or ac­cess to rem­edy, es­pe­cially in the win­ter,” said Shivani Chaudhry, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of ad­vo­cacy Hous­ing and Land Rights Network. Of­fi­cials said the land be­longed to the city and that res­i­dents were asked to clear the area sev­eral times. Af­ter the de­mo­li­tion, they were given food and tem­po­rary shelter, one of­fi­cial said.

“They were ac­com­mo­dated in tents, and se­nior of­fi­cials vis­ited the site and in­formed them about al­ter­nate ac­com­mo­da­tion,” said Bhaskar Sharma, a spokesman for the Delhi Ur­ban Shelter Im­prove­ment Board. More than a quar­ter of Delhi’s pop­u­la­tion of about 18 mil­lion lives in slums and in­for­mal set­tle­ments, ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates. About a third of In­dia’s 1.25 bil­lion pop­u­la­tion lives in ci­ties, with num­bers ris­ing ev­ery year as tens of thou­sands of mi­grants leave vil­lages to seek bet­ter prospects in ur­ban ar­eas. Many end up in over­crowded slums lack­ing ba­sic ameni­ties.

But the gov­ern­ment has un­veiled a plan to pro­vide hous­ing for all by 2022 that will cre­ate 20 mil­lion new hous­ing units and re­ha­bil­i­tate ex­ist­ing slums. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has vowed to cre­ate 100 Smart Ci­ties in In­dia by 2022 that will have in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity, un­in­ter­rupted power and water sup­ply, ef­fi­cient pub­lic trans­port and liv­ing stan­dards com­pa­ra­ble to Europe. Ac­tivists have voiced con­cerns that the drive to mod­ern­ize ci­ties will force tens of thou­sands of such peo­ple from their homes as city plan­ners spruce up cen­tral busi­ness districts and build metro train lines.

Evic­tions are in­creas­ingly car­ried out in ex­treme weather con­di­tions, with­out no­tice, and with large num­bers of po­lice, Chaudhry said. Res­i­dents, who are largely daily wage earn­ers, lose their be­long­ings and their liveli­hood, and chil­dren are forced to drop out of school, she said. “How can the gov­ern­ment be com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing hous­ing for all, if it de­mol­ishes ex­ist­ing homes of lower in­come groups?” Chaudhry said. “The state must stop all evic­tions across the coun­try.” — Reuters

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